heavy metals

truffler1635 at my-deja.com truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Wed Sep 29 13:22:02 EST 1999

In article <rv1gub7o3i582 at corp.supernews.com>,
  alleycat at pronetisp.net (allen lutins) wrote:
> National Public Radio this morning had a story on elevated lead and
> arsenic levels in the soil of a North Carolina residential
> neighborhood.  The source of these contaminants was the prior
> existence of an apple orchard on the site, to which lead arsenate had
> been heavily applied for about 100 years.  The reporter mentioned that
> such heavy applications of lead arsenate used to be common in such
> orchards.
> I am wondering if heavy metals such as lead and arsenic accumulate in
> the fruiting bodies of mushrooms?  I heard warnings years ago to avoid
> mushrooms growing in old cemeteries for precisely this reason (heavy
> metals and other toxic substances were used in embalming fluids for
> centuries).  This is of particular concern to us mycophagists, because
> here in the northeast morels are commonly sought in old apple
> orchards.
> Replies based on knowledge, rather than speculation, would certainly
> be preferred.  Thanks for your shared concern.
> allen lutins

Denis R. Benjamin's _Mushrooms: Poisons and panaceas_ is a good
reference for you to obtain (c. 1995, W. H. Freeman and Company). While
most of the work he cites originates in Europe, he has instances of
lead, cadmium, mercury, vanadium, selenium arsenic, maganese, bromine,
nickel, silver and gold have already been detected. He states (p 123)
"One European guideline recommends that no more than 1 kg --
approximately 2.2 pounds -- of wild mushrooms be eaten per week, in
order to stay below the World Heatlh Organization guidelines for the
ingestion of toxic elements."

But Benjamin continues that "Lead is one of the elements not
specifically concentrated by mushrooms. For this reason, it is only a
problem in areas of high environmental contaimination, for example,
around lead smelters (and their downwind extension) and along busy
roadways, where the lead in the fmumes of the old type of gasoline has
accumulated in the soil. ... In a study around a lead smelter in
Bohemia, which has been in operation since 1786, mushrooms collected up
to 6 km away from the source still contained lead above the safe limit."

Among the mushrooms cited by Benjamin as known to concentrate heavy
metals are: Coprinus comatus, Pleurotus sps, Lycoperdon perlatum,
Agaricus campestris, Laccaria amethystina, Boletus edulis, and Amanita

This is why mushrooms should not (in general) be collected for
consumption along busy roads or near toxic dumps.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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